Emily Thornberry Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury
Thank you for contacting me about the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.
Since this Bill was tabled last year, I have voted against it at every opportunity. And in my current capacity as Labour’s Shadow Attorney General, I will do everything in my power to ensure that this Bill does not become law in its present form.
As well as threatening the right to peaceful protest, and the ability of trade unions to take effective strike action, it is clear that a number of other measures in this Bill will have a disproportionate impact on Black, Asian and minority ethnic people; Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities; people with mental health issues; and homeless people.
That is why – as well as voting against the Bill – Labour has been demanding that the government publish a full equality impact assessment setting out the cumulative effect it will have on different groups, so we can use their own evidence to expose the damaging and divisive impact the Bill will have on society if it is allowed to become law in its present form.
I know that you have concerns regarding the provisions in the Bill which would impose disproportionate controls on free expression and the right to protest. The Bill contains several vague terms that could be applied far too widely; for example, describing ‘public nuisance’ as causing someone ‘serious annoyance’ or ‘serious inconvenience’.
I wholeheartedly support the right to peaceful protest. It is a fundamental civil liberty. I also believe that it is important that protests are able to take place in the vicinity of Parliament so that legislators are not cocooned from public anger.
I was pleased to see that the government was defeated in the House of Lords on many of the most contentious elements of the Bill, such as the plans to give the police new powers to stop protests in England and Wales, because they are deemed ‘too noisy’ or ‘disruptive’.
I can assure you that the Labour Party will continue to fight against this draconian and discriminatory Bill, as we have at every other stage of its journey through Parliament.
Thank you for contacting me about this important issue. If you have any further points you would like to raise, please do not hesitate to get back in touch.
The Rt Hon. Emily Thornberry MP
Islington South and Finsbury
Shadow Attorney General